LONG BEACH — Organizers of an annual lesbian and gay pride festival, reacting to what they consider a slap from City Hall, say they will undertake a campaign to focus national attention on next year's event.
Festival backers say they want to use the event to spotlight what they say is discrimination by Long Beach officials.
Leaders of Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Inc., the nonprofit group that sponsors the annual festival, say they plan to do widespread advertising in the national gay press in an effort to boost attendance.
In addition, the group's leaders say they recently met with organizers of other gay pride events around the country and gained their backing for the effort to promote the Long Beach festival.
Banned Entrance Fees
Earlier this month, the City Council approved an ordinance banning entrance fees and the sale of alcohol at summer charity events in Shoreline Aquatic Park, a move that effectively scuttled the group's plans to hold the festival and a concurrent gay pride parade down Ocean Boulevard in June.
While city officials say the ban was needed to keep the park free for use by the general public during the summer, the festival's leaders insisted the move had singled out their group. Because of the ban, the group had to reschedule its event for May 17 and 18.
Festival backers say that what might seem a mere logistical switch is actually a profound symbolic change. They say a May festival breaks with their tradition of holding such events in June to commemorate the New York riots of 1969 that sparked the gay pride movement.
"The Fourth of July is celebrated on July fourth. Why can't a gay and lesbian pride festival be held in June if gay and lesbian pride month is June?" said Judith Doyle, president of the Long Beach group. "The ban was a political move by the City Council to undercut our event. I'm sure they had hopes we'd just drop it or pick a less visible spot than Shoreline Aquatic Park."
Councilman Warren Harwood, who supported the summertime ban, disagreed. "I think too much has been read into this," he said. "The fact is that access is always an issue at the shoreline facilities. It's an issue completely separate from this sort of event. It has nothing to do with discrimination."
The council's action came amid a feud between the city and organizers of the gay pride event.
Prior to last June's two-day festival, Doyle and other organizers accused city officials of trying to block the event by charging the group about $25,000 for police supervision and other municipal services. Those fees prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to file a discrimination lawsuit that is still pending.
During the International Lesbian and Gay Pride Coordinators Conference earlier this month in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Doyle said she told the 97 attending delegates about her group's run-ins with city officials. The delegates agreed to help focus attention on the Long Beach festival as a kick-off for lesbian and gay pride events held throughout the nation during June, Doyle said.
Doyle said she hoped the 1986 festival would attract people from around the country and draw more than 15,000. The festival in June had 10,000 attend over two days, she said.
Opponents of the festival, meanwhile, said they would respond by increasing their own efforts.
"You can be sure there's going to be a bigger scream from the conservative Christian community," said Craig Garbe, a spokesman for the Long Beach Coalition for Traditional Values. "The louder the gays scream, the louder we'll get. We're not going to take this one lying down."
Garbe, whose group made up the core of opposition to last June's festival, said efforts to get homosexuals from throughout the country to attend only proves that there is little support for "the gay life style" in Long Beach.
"They don't have the support here in Long Beach so they have to bus them in," he said.